Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys defense bends early, locks down late to put away Ravens

Safety Byron Jones, center, corralling Ravens receiver Steve Smith, led the Cowboys with eight tackles Sunday.
Safety Byron Jones, center, corralling Ravens receiver Steve Smith, led the Cowboys with eight tackles Sunday. Special to the Star-Telegram

In Baltimore’s first four possessions Sunday at AT&T Stadium, the Ravens were forced to punt three times and had just two first downs.

By the time quarterback Dak Prescott got the Cowboys’ offense going in the second half, it was the defense that had buckled down to keep Dallas in the game.

“That one drive, we just didn’t play like we normally play and you’ve got to give credit to them on that,” linebacker Sean Lee said. “We had the game tied up at halftime and I think we came out and locked in and did our job.”

That meant jumping on Baltimore right away to open the third quarter.

After a 22-yard pass from Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco to Steve Smith, the Cowboys forced a punt and Prescott went to work.

A 10-play, 92-yard scoring drive led to Dallas’ first lead of the game and then another frustrating possession for Baltimore.

With just one first down on the ensuing drive, the Ravens were forced to punt for the fifth time.

The Cowboys scored to take a 24-10 lead and didn’t look back.

“I think what we did was just settle down,” said free safety Byron Jones, who led the team in tackles with eight. “We played uncharacteristically in the first half and then for the most part, shut them down in the second half.”

Baltimore made it interesting in the fourth quarter, scoring a touchdown with 8:16 left to pull within 24-17.

Flacco marched the Ravens 75 yards in eight plays, with crisp passing through the secondary.

He hit wide receivers Steve Smith and Kamar Aiken with pass plays of 22 and 18 yards to start the drive.

Defensive end David Irving had a deflected ball at the line of scrimmage and a sack of Flacco to put Baltimore in a hole.

A face-mask penalty on Tyrone Crawford nullified the sack and Flacco went on to hit Smith on pass plays of 17 and 5 yards, the latter for a touchdown that cut the Dallas lead to 24-17.

Baltimore didn’t get the ball back until there was 1:55 left to play.

“We were solid. We didn’t let nothing over the top, we pride ourselves in that,” strong safety J.J. Wilcox said. “AB [Anthony Brown] did a good job on the side, B [Brandon] Carr always does a great job and our cornerbacks always stand up. They were taking shots with their guys and we made plays, but that’s the main thing.”

The defense still has not allowed a 100-yard rusher this season, but it also failed to get a turnover. The Cowboys have forced just one turnover in the past four games and none in the past three.

“If we get turnovers and get the ball to the offense, the game is going to be easier because of how well they are playing,” Lee said.

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